Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Gary Numan at Sheffield Leadmill - 20/05/24

I have a long history with Mr Numan! Way back in the mists of ancient time, my brother Alan and I happened to catch him and Tubeway Army performing 'Are "Friends" Electric?' on Top of the Pops ... some research suggests this might have been 24 May 1979 ... and there's even a video of the performance on YouTube!

The next day Alan went out and bought the single, and then, when we realised that the album, Replicas, was available, this became the first album that I ever bought ... and I loved it to pieces.

I went on to devour the next album, The Pleasure Principle (released 7 September 1979), now dropping the Tubeway Army name, and Alan and I managed to get tickets to Gary's gig at the Hammersmith Odeon that year as well (on the 18th September) and we were blown away by the performance and the music. (As a sideline, support at that gig was an unknown band called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and the two chaps had a tape machine centre stage and set it going and then sung along ... I liked the music but I disliked the singer's voice!)

After that I got Telekon, the third album ... but after that, the music seemed to dip and I was less enthralled by it ... so I drifted away. Later on I discovered (via Alan) that there was a double album called The Plan, containing pre-'Our Friends' tracks and B sides ... and I got and loved that as well ... I also remember from that time a preview of four tracks ('Cars', 'Airlane', 'Films' and 'Conversation') for The Pleasure Principle on the John Peel show (transmitted 25 June 1979) that I loved to bits ... and of course the original Tubeway Army LP, reissued mid-1979which, again, I got and loved!

Now, some 45 years later, and for Alan's 60th Birthday, I managed to get tickets for the Anniversary tour at the Sheffield Leadmill ... the idea of the tour was that Gary was playing material from those first two albums and so that really appealed to me ... And it was just 4 days adrift from the anniversary of that iconic first television appearance.

So we rocked up at the Leadmill after a fairly long and boring train journey, and hung around waiting for the doors to open. Because I had a bad foot from a fall before Christmas last year, and Alan has bad knees, I had arranged for us to have seats in 'the mezzanine' ... and a friend, Alex, had done the same ... so we managed to get in early, beating standing in the queue for ages, and were taken to 'the mezzanine' which turned out to be a small raised platform in one corner of the room, from where we had a great unobstructed view of the stage (ok, we couldn't see the left hand side at all and I didn't even realise that this was where the keyboards/synth player was!) but we also had a rail to lean on and seats when we needed them ... so it was great!

The gig started late - around 9pm (people had suggested 8pm was when it started), but from the outset, it was astonishingly good.  A rendition of 'Replicas' led into 'ME' and the crowd was loving the music and Gary was in his element ... performing and singing, and even smiling on occasion! He was joined on stage by two 'priests' on guitar (Steve Harris (Guitar) and Tim Slade (Bass)), and these solemn. bald-headed creatures rocked the instruments and even played up a little as they went ... there was also a drummer (Jimmy Von Boom - aka Jimmy Vincent Lucido), and the synth player (David Brooks) ... and all were superb.

Pic (c) 2024 David J Howe

The familiar songs came thick and fast, all very familiar from those first two albums ... the lighting was amazing, with strobes, and red, blue and green spots playing out over the stage and into the audience, with strobe and other effects too, all tied in with the music and the songs ... it was superb!

What Gary had done was to take the original songs, and given them some meat and heft so they weren't exactly the same as on the albums, but were all recognisable ... There was a smashing beat and vibe throughout, and thankfully the bass wasn't too loud so you could actually hear them without them all distorting or the beat making your chest and teeth ache!

Pic (c) 2024 David J Howe


I loved the rendition of the instrumental 'Airlane' about half way through, and then we came to 'Down in the Park', possibly one of my favourites ... and it was sublime ... a superb performance ...

As is usual for these events, Gary and the team finished up and waved and headed offstage ... but it's always a ruse ... as a couple of minutes later they were back, and the familiar opening warble of 'Cars' started up and of course the crowd went wild ... then ... the one everyone had been waiting for, 'Are "Friends" Electric?' ... and although his voice seemed to be a little stretched by this time, Gary went for it and turned in a great performance of his breakthrough hit ... When at the end his voice cracked as he said 'You see it meant everything to me', you really believe it.



Thank you Gary for 45 years of music and pleasure ... You made two old chaps very, very happy!

The following Photographs are (c) Alan Howe 2024






The following Photographs are (c) Alex Storer 2024









Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Review: Adventures in Type and Space

Every so often a Doctor Who book comes along which breaks the mould ... it's something so 'out there' that you perhaps felt that there might never be a book all about it, or that maybe there wasn't much to say about the subject.

Along comes Graham Kibble-White, Jack Kibble-White and Stuart Manning asking me to hold their pint.

Adventures in Type and Space is just that book. It's a celebration of the early days of the Doctor Who title sequences, covering all the Classic series from Hartnell to McCoy. It includes interviews with the main talents behind the sequences: Bernard Lodge, Sid Sutton Oliver Elmes and Gareth Edwards and takes in discussions of typefaces, printing techniques, the famous 'slit scan' process and much, much besides ... and it's a fascinating read!

Illustrated with all manner of pictures of title sequences, machinery, catalogues and other ephemera - including the ACTUAL plate used to print the famed diamond logo (and I so want one of the prints from it, signed by Bernard Lodge!) - the book takes us on a history trip through the development of the BBC Graphics department, taking in the challenges of early title sequences, up to the computer generated sequences of the late eighties. There's so much in here which is of interest, and it's all viewed through the lens of the Doctor Who fan ... meaning that it manages to all stay relevant and grounded and interested.

It's a smashing piece of work, and if you have ever wondered how they did the titles, or want to learn more of the history and development of the art form then I commend it to you.

Copies were available from Ten Acre Films here: https://tenacrefilms.bigcartel.com/, but it seems to now be sold out. However I'm told that The Who Shop may still have copies available ... :)

Maybe there will be a reprint. There deserves to be!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Review: The Monster Man

The Monster Man is the latest release from Keith Barnfather and Reeltime Pictures, and as usual it's a slick and professional production.

Superbly edited by Roger Stevens, the production focusses on Neil Cole, the creator and proprietor of the Museum of Classic SciFi based in Allendale, England, and his work restoring old screen-used props and costumes for display.

The love and work that goes into these projects become evident as Cole, an engaging and interesting character, introduces us to his top ten restorations ... and the amazing work that goes into them becomes apparent.  He receives through the post a hand from an '80s Doctor Who monster, The Destroyer, to display - he already has the matching hand! He works on a Bannerman, on the Garm, both from Doctor Who, on a Thing mask from The Fantastic Four ... large and small, Cole is so enthusiastic about his passion, and that enthusiasm rubs off on the viewer.

There's so much to see inside the crammed cases of the Museum - I have visited and know how small a space it really is - and at one point Cole mentions there are more than 300 items on display! And many more in storage which he cannot fit in - so I assume he constantly cycles them and keeps the museum interesting for repeat visitors.

As the top ten comes to a conclusion, you feel an affinity with Cole and his passion. What he has done is incredible as virtually a one-man operation, and the battles he has fought with the local council have been ridiculous and painful as they attempted to use his Museum as a political football ... whereas in fact it's probably drawn more footfall and custom to Allendale through café and food sales and guest house bookings than anything else.

Overall the DVD is exceptionally entertaining. Barnfather and Stevens never forget that this is meant to be fun, and the production takes a potentially dry subject and turns it into an exciting and compelling documentary, which would be right at place on any streaming service or official Blu-Ray release.

The DVD is available to buy or to stream from: https://timetraveltv.com/programme/593

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Review: Cover B by Will Brooks

Will Brooks is something of a legend! For several years he was the artist on 'Cover B' for all the Titan Doctor Who comic releases.  For those not in the know, Titan released all their Doctor Who comics with multiple covers from different artists - basically making it impossible to collect them all. Indeed, the first issue of their first Tenth Doctor comic had 40 or so different covers, many exclusives to one store or retailer or another ... so utterly impossible to get them all!  'Cover B' was the photo cover, and the one that Brooks did each time.

Brooks has collected all these covers into a lovely hardback and paperback book which was kickstarted last year and which arrived a couple of weeks ago - the book is still available via the kickstarter as 'late pledges' here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1666382001/cover-b

What is so great about Brooks' work is that in most cases there's a dynamic about the art which is often missing in other 'cut it out and slap it together' pieces of photoshop. He crafts stories into the pieces, and, even though relying on photographs, they are stitched together, Frankenstein-like, to create new pieces. A hand from there, a body from here, a watch from somewhere else, a background taken on holiday, a photo of an eye from over there ... all to create a magnificent coherent ensemble image which looks as real as if it was photographed as it actually appeared!

Along the way Brooks details the story of how he came to be involved, and the trials and tribulations of trying to create this art against a backdrop of BBC Licensing, who seemed to not understand what he needed. They starved him of key photographs, and came back with late requests to remove items, monsters and so on ... all of which added to the general adversity of creating effective cover art for a licensed magazine. One strange request was that the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, should never be seen as threatened ... so she had to appear on her own or with her 'fam' - no monsters allowed to be there ... which lead to a fairly boring set of images, all of which seem to be straight out of the PR folder.

But Brooks tried. No Daleks to be used in the early years ... no Zygons permitted ... ideas scuppered ... whole covers created and then scrapped ... it's quite the horror story. And Brooks also mentions how the pay decreased over time as well ... less and less being spent, until Titan changed editors and the 'new guard' decided that they didn't want to pay anyone external for doing a photo cover and brought it all in house. End of an era.

Luckily, said era is documented, described and beautifully illustrated in this book. We have rough covers: cut and pastes of pictures to show alignments and basic ideas. Unused covers, covers which form sequences and conceptual work showing scenes you'd never quite imagine. It's quite the tour de force.

A remarkable art book of Doctor Who imagery all created by one man!  It's a triumph!

Friday, February 16, 2024

New Doctor Who Vinyl for Record Store Day 2024


 “We are at the very beginning…”

Demon Records presents, exclusive to Record Store Day 2024, the complete narrated TV soundtrack of the Doctor Who story ‘The Edge Of Destruction’. This brand new audio presentation, making its debut in any format with this vinyl release, features unique linking narration by Carole Ann Ford. There’s also a bonus interview with Carole herself, in which she recalls playing Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, in the original TV episodes.

The vinyl boasts a picture disc Side A, showing the Ship’s melting ormolu clock from a pivotal scene in the story, and an exclusive Zoetrope Side B, depicting the TARDIS swirling across space and time (best experienced using a smartphone running a third party stroboscope app). The 12” disc is presented in a stunning die cut artwork outer sleeve.

Escaping from their previous adventure, the Doctor, Susan, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) are inside the TARDIS when it appears to be taken over by an outside force. 2024 is the 60th anniversary of this two episode story starring William Hartnell as the Doctor. First broadcast on 8 & 15 February 1964, it was only the third ever Doctor Who serial to be transmitted.

Doctor Who returns to BBC TV and Disney+ in Spring 2024 with Ncuti Gatwa in his first full series as the Fifteenth Doctor.

Side A
The Edge Of Destruction

Side B
The Brink Of Disaster

CAT NO: DEMREC1190
RELEASE DATE: 20th April 2024
FORMAT: Zoetrope Picture Disc
BARCODE: 5014797910898

Friday, February 09, 2024

REVIEW: NEW DOCTOR WHO TARGET BOOKS

At the end of 2023 we had the enjoyment of seeing four new Doctor Who adventures on telly ... three with the Doctor in the form of David Tennant (again) and one with the brand new Doctor in the form of Ncuti Gatwa ... and sure as salt, the novelisations of the adventures appeared. First on Kindle, and then in paperback and hardback (for the Gatwa one only).

I have a long association with the Target Doctor Who novelisation line. First as a reader, then as a collector, then as a chronicler (researching and writing The Target Book (www.telos.co.uk or Amazon where you live), and now penning the liner notes for the audio readings of the old novelisations. So turning my attention to some new fare was exciting indeed.


The Star Beast by Gary Russell

First off is The Star Beast. On TV this was a bit of a run-around with aliens and explosions and franticness as the Doctor and Donna become reacquainted, meet Beep the Meep, and figure out what's going on all in the space of an hour. The story is based on a comic adventure from way back, and Russell T Davies has reinvented it for the small screen. It seems that Gary Russell has then sort of backwards finessed it and included more from the original comic ...

But the book is a nice read, if a little unadventurous. The characters are all there, and, as in the CD liner notes I tend to look at what has been added/changed for each book, there's some nice new material about a character called Stew Ferguson which adds interest and humanity to the proceedings.

I also like to see how the Doctor is described ... and here we have 'a tall, thin guy in a long blue coat ... his brown hair blowing slightly in the breeze' which is an excellent thumbnail of the 14th Doctor.

Overall it's enjoyable and rattles through the breathless adventure with aplomb ... good job.

Wild Blue Yonder by Mark Morris

The middle of the three 14th Doctor adventures, and a slight change of tone and pace as the Doctor and Donna find themselves on a vast spacecraft at the edge of the universe ... with a mystery to be solved.

Mark Morris follows the TV story pretty closely here (and I note he has mentioned online that this was indeed the brief) and he does a superb job of bringing this slightly atypical story to the page. There are only two characters in it (the Doctor and Donna), and they find themselves being mimicked by an alien entity/two entities while a stumpy robot walks, one step at a time, very slowly, down a long corridor ...

I enjoyed the prose here and there's some smashing descriptions which really bring the visuals to life. The prologue with Isaac Newton is included, and I still find it odd - not having anything to do with anything else in the story - but having more prose is not a problem!

I do feel that there's perhaps an element of foreshadowing missing, in that the final story, The Giggle, alludes back to actions taken here ... and it might have been nice to have teased a little ... but the story stands up nicely.  I liked the idea of numbering the chapters using the alien words as well.

And the Doctor? We get 'a skinny man in an oddly patterned, tight fitting suit whose hair stuck up at odd angles.'  Very nice.

Overall I found it more satisfying than The Star Beast. Mark Morris' writing flows and provides an enjoyable experience as we explore the mystery with the characters ... and not giving anything away must have been challenging to achieve in prose. 

The Giggle by James Goss

The final book of the 14th Doctor's stories is The Giggle, and this is in a different realm. What's perhaps most interesting is that Morris was apparently told he couldn't embellish the story over what was on TV, whereas Goss does nothing but. And the book is far better and richer for it.

So the third adventure sees the return of the Toymaker from a Doctor Who story from 1965, played by Neil Patrick Harris, and is another change of tone as the character is set on challenging the Doctor to more games to try and even the score ... and it's the Doctor's liberal use of salt at the end of the universe in Wild Blue Yonder which allowed this to happen.

The novelisation opens with a recap from the end of Wild Blue Yonder and it was interesting to see the slight variation of text between Morris and Goss in this regard, but from there we launch into the story as seen on TV ... the Toymaker with his cod Germanic accent, Stooky Bill, the chaos on Earth, UNIT Tower and so on ... but the text is peppered with odd phrases ... something is afoot. And that something is the Toymaker, who has actually invaded the book, and eventually he emerges to take over the tale himself ... and the book is crazed fun.

There are word puzzles and mazes along the way. On TV when Donna is separated from the Doctor in the corridors of doors, in the book it becomes a 'make your own adventure' with 'To try the first door, go to move xxx' or whatever (the text echoing the Doctor playing the Trilogic Game in the original sixties story) ... great fun. I read through the book consecutively, so arrived at the little piece which you don't get to if you play the game properly ... another nice conceit.

The section where the Toymaker dances in UNIT HQ to The Spice Girls singing 'Spice Up Your Life' is interesting ... rather than as on TV, we have here a discussion with a copyright lawyer as to why the lyrics cannot be used, followed by a manic sequence where the words are omitted and replaced with Las instead ... a neat way of getting around the vast expense of reproducing lyrics in print ...

Overall the book is joyous fun ... it oozes from every page ... and makes the most of the prose form to deliver the adventure to the reader. In the audio reading of the novelisation, Goss has changed it again, and the puzzles which work in the book in printed form are changed to audio equivalents ... clever and nicely done.

And the 14th Doctor: there's not much description at all. Skinny. Hair ready to run for the hills. But no general description.

For the 15th Doctor: He's young. Handsome. Dark skin. That's it. But then this is from the Toymaker's point of view, so maybe that accounts for it. (As on TV Mel thinks he's beautiful and Donna asks if he comes in a range of colours.)

Overall this is a great example of a book which takes the translation of a story into prose and runs with it. It's frantic, exciting and so much fun! Easily the best of the four novelisations.

The Church on Ruby Road by Esme Jikiemi-Pearson

And so to the last of the four, and the only one in hardback. While this says it's a Target book on the inside flap, there is no logo and no other indication that this is what it is ... maybe the eventual paperback will follow the more accepted format.

Anyway, this seems to be the second book from the author (this came out on Jan 25 whereas her 'debut' novel, The Principal of Moments, came out on Jan 18, but her PR suggests she's 'the Sunday Times Bestselling author of the The Order of Legends trilogy' ... which I can't find any reference to ... unless Principal is perhaps the first volume in this trilogy?) and it's good to see someone new writing for the Doctor Who range.

It's another novelisation which sticks close to the screenplay, but here the author has a lightness of touch to the prose which is very pleasing. By telling it (mostly) through the viewpoint of Ruby Sunday, we get a sense that she is a real person thrust into unreal situations, and it all works nicely, feeling warm and fluffy when you need it to. The descriptions are good, with some effective material around the goblin ship and its inhabitants, and although the book seems slight, it does cover all the ground. There's even a nice back-reference to The Giggle and the Toymaker to explain the goblins as being part of his legacy.

In terms of the Doctor ... well sadly it seems that Jikiemi-Pearson forgot to describe him. He has brown eyes, a long brown coat, 'a galaxy lived on his skin' (love this description by the way), strong arms ... but otherwise he's just 'the man' in the early parts before he's called the Doctor. I guess you could easily read the book with the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) in your mind if you wanted to and it wouldn't make much difference as the same 'teeth flashing white' note applies there as well.

Overall I enjoyed the book, but compared with The Giggle, it's not nearly as much fun (but then not much would be). As a proper introduction to the 15th Doctor it also falls a little flat as there's nothing really here to make him stand out. But the writing is eloquent, and there's a deftness to it all. Enjoyable.

And one more thing: the final words from the mysterious Mrs Flood (no clues here) are clearly spoken to herself and not to Abdul or the audience ...

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Review: Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road

A Christmas Special! A new Doctor! A new Companion! And a new era for Doctor Who!

It can always be quite daunting when a new Doctor arrives, and in this case, it's probably more than usual as here we have a Doctor without any 'baggage', a new bi-generated Doctor, newly created, and having left all his angst, past, tiredness and issues with his previous self - allowing the Doctor as a whole to heal on Earth with a new 'family'. And here we have Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor ... in his first proper adventure since he split from his previous self.  It's a great way to reboot the show for (another) new audience and to bring it all up to date for the rest of its 7th Decade.

There's a lot going on here of course, and a lot to enjoy and appreciate. And as it's a Christmas Special to boot, there's that element to try and include as well ...

The whole Christmas thing is perhaps of the least impart here: it happens to be new companion Ruby Sunday's birthday, and there's a church, and snow on the ground, and Christmas decorations all around of course ... but it has (or seems to have) no bearing on the actual plot.

The plot is fairly simple: Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) is now 18 years old, and she was discovered outside a church on Christmas Eve. She was taken in by a foster family and named Ruby (after the name of the street that the church was in). Now she's finding that she has hit a rash of bad luck as a load of time-bimbling goblins have decided to make her unlucky (and those she encounters) as prelude to taking another baby (called Lulu-Belle) on Christmas Eve in order to feed it to the Goblin King.

The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) has become aware of Ruby's bad luck and is trailing her ... popping up in a nightclub where she plays piano/synth on stage, and in a club where she's having a drink, as well as at her house. So when the goblins move in and kidnap the baby, he's ready for them, and he and Ruby head up a ladder to the goblin ship which is flying overhead, to rescue the baby and bring them back to Earth safely.

However, the goblins have other ideas, and bimble back 18 years and kidnap Ruby as a baby instead!  This changes time, and in the present, suddenly only the Doctor remembers Ruby. So he heads back in time to rescue her from being eaten, and crashes their ship by pulling it down onto the spire of the church where it pierces (and presumably kills) the Goblin King.

Ruby reappears in the present day, everyone has their memories back and time is back on course, so the Doctor 'entices' Ruby to leave with him. But who is the mysterious Mrs Flood (Anita Dobson), the next door neighbour, who knows that the Doctor's ship is a TARDIS (but who seemed taken aback to see it materialise and dematerialise). Who is Ruby's real mother, and why did they leave her on the steps of the church 18 years ago. Why does Ruby's family have a working instant camera, complete with film? (they are quite expensive in 2023, as is the film for them ... how can the family afford that?) Why does no-one seem to have a mobile phone?

Another concern is that in this episode the Doctor does something that I'm not 100% sure he has ever done before - go back in time specifically to change history back again ... usually, as with Adric's death, or the bloody human sacrifice habit of the Aztecs, for example, he says he cannot do this. Maybe this is part of the new unbaggaged Doctor's make-up ... but then the 10th Doctor's attempt to correct history in 'Waters of Mars' was all part of the Doctor starting to go insane and believing he was some sort of unstoppable god! Here, though, the goblins had already changed it, and he was just changing it back again, so maybe that's okay then (as the Toymaker might say).

But it's a minor point and the episode is hugely enjoyable, due in no small part to the performances of Gatwa and Gibson ... very endearing and well cast, with the Doctor having bags of charisma and a smile to die for ... as well as the much needed gravitas (or should that be mavitas - I noticed that mavity was referenced again in the story) needed to bring the character to life.

The goblins are interesting, and I liked that writer Russell T Davies gave them a scientific basis rather than just complete fantasy ... the idea that their technology is based around the science of luck and coincidence, as well as the language of ropes is fascinating and added a lot to the wonder of the tale. Their realisation is also very well done ... I originally thought they might have been all CGI, but no, they're actually twelve performers (including Rachelle Beinart who played Po in Tellytubbies!) with amazing prosthetics and make-up ... and then there's the Goblin King, an incredible giant animatronic monster ... simply brilliant!

One thing that's great about the current 'version' of Doctor Who is that when people pick on elements to criticise, you can usually find another example (or more) from earlier eras of the show. So if you didn't like the goblin sailing ship in the sky, then look to 'Enlightenment' with its space-bound schooners piloted by the Eternals; if the idea of the Doctor having gravity/mavity gloves worries you, then look to the Doctor using his sonic to calm Aggedor (in 'The Curse of Peladon'), or any number of other esoteric devices invented by the third Doctor; if Mrs Flood addressing the camera at the end was a problem, then look to several other instances of the Doctor and others doing the same - and of course the most famous line from the Doctor in 'The Feast of Steven' episode of 'The Daleks' Master Plan' where he broke away to wish a Happy Christmas to everyone at home! If you thought the Doctor bursting into song was strange ... well ... you may have a point. I quite liked the goblin song, though it keeps niggling me that I know the tune from something else. But the Doctor and Ruby also launching into a bit of song and dance seemed somewhat far fetched. But then again, the same thing happened way back in 'The Gunfighters' where the Doctor's companions had a bash at 'The Ballard of the Last Chance Saloon'. Even the Doctor's opening monologue harks back to stories like 'The Deadly Assassin'.

So there's precedents for many elements which I have seen people talking about online. But then we have other things too: spearing the lead monster with the top of a church spire is very similar to the way the Great Vampire was despatched in 'State of Decay'; the 'family unit' and the way they are introduced and integrated realistically is very reminiscent of Rose and her family from 2005 (a speciality of Davies seems to be writing these characters as real and believable); and of course goblins stealing a baby is straight out of the film Labyrinth.

The Doctor presumably killing all the goblins and their King though ... that's not very Doctor-like. I wonder if they were killed though, or whether they were banished back to whatever reality/time they had bimbled in from ... 

Overall then, a good Christmas episode which bodes well for the future. Doctor Who is dead! Long live Doctor Who!